Monday, February 21, 2011

Two ex-ISA detainees join SDP

Feb 20, 2011
Two ex-ISA detainees join SDP
By Tessa Wong, STRAITS TIMES

Former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees Michael Fernandez and Vincent Cheng have joined the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and may stand as party candidates in the upcoming general election.

The two new members were introduced at the party's anniversary dinner last night at Fort Canning.

Both men told The Sunday Times they would consider standing for election under the SDP banner if they were asked to by party leaders.

Mr Fernandez, 77, is a retired former unionist whose lawsuit against the Government for alleged torture during his detention from 1964 to 1973 was struck out last Friday.

He has another suit pending against the Government that alleges he was unlawfully detained for part of his detention.

He said he joined the party two months ago because he wanted to 'let more young people know about ex-detainees' experiences'.

He felt that his age and health would not affect his decision to run. 'I am still very healthy. As for age, Lee Kuan Yew is also very old, and he is still in Parliament.'

Mr Cheng, 64, is a former social worker who was detained in the late 1980s for being part of an alleged Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the Government. He joined the SDP shortly after speaking at its rally last November.

Both men are advocates for the abolition of the ISA, which the SDP has also called for. They said this issue would be part of their campaign platforms if they ran.

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan told reporters yesterday that the party is in the process of attracting new members. He declined to give figures on party membership, but he said that since the last election in 2006, the median age of party members has dropped from the mid-50s to the mid-30s.

Among the younger members are academic James Gomez and civil society activist Vincent Wijeysingha, both in their 40s and seen as potential election candidates.

Since joining the SDP last year, Dr Wijeysingha has become more prominent in the party, and is the key figure behind its recent Shadow Budget.

When asked if Dr Wijeysingha could be his successor, Dr Chee, who has been the SDP's secretary-general for 18 years, said: 'That would be a question that our party members would have to answer. He would have to convince party members that he should be in the leadership and would continue to lead this party.'

On leadership renewal, Dr Chee said he found the idea of grooming successors 'off-putting'.

He said he preferred that members with leadership qualities step up instead, and that party members would recognise talent and leadership.

He said the party was non-hierarchical. 'We include young members in our discussions and decision-making processes. So they learn, and when they learn, they build confidence, and they develop as leaders themselves.'

The SDP would field more young candidates in the next election and would unveil them once the electoral boundaries report comes out, he said.

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Further reading:

23 years after Operation Spectrum : Ex-detainees recall mental and physical abuses

More ex-detainees speak out : Political violence and the abuse of the ISA in Singapore

The Scars of Detention by Michael Fernandez

Friday, February 18, 2011

Walking Distance (Poem)

Walking Distance
A poem by Tania De Rozario

Above: Newly weds who tie their dog up
for hours on end. I can hear it crying
day in and out just above my kitchen
as I do my dishes religiously.
Across : A woman beats her child
to tears because she pulls a face
upon being delivered like a weekly digest
to lessons in piano / ballet / drawing / French / abacus / speech
and drama : Tick where appropriate,
like you do with ethnicity and choice of schools
(all newly-built, well-ranked, value-added
and walking distance from the MRT).

I can hear the man who comes back from work
at 6.33, demanding his tea be hot by the time
he comes out of the shower. I hear the kettle
blow its temper ten minutes later as I fill up surveys
for companies who pay me fifty a piece
because they think I'm creative and articulate.
Across the street : Large vinyl signboards
prostituting brand new condominiums,
all devoid of inhabitants and less importantly,
soul, looking for people who are looking to better
their standards of existing, dying, and procreating
within walking distance of the MRT.

Downstairs: Cats grown crafty from rumours
of culling, patrol corners sneaking glances
at the man who rants to an invisible audience
about the government, the price of housing
and a time when bus-rides were practically free.
Upstairs: A writer grows desperate with rage
pondering the years she's minced her language
into verbs and nouns all mispronounced
and strung into sentences without conjunctions
simply to facilitate the buying of rice
in stores all small and family-owned
all walking distance from the MRT.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hard Facts on Singapore

By Dr. Foo Loon Sung, Temasek Review
Feb 15 2011

Hmmm something to ponder on. The only truth about LKY’s system of govt is it leads to us working harder and harder… sometimes for less.

In addition to the truth our wisest leader has uttered, I would like the authors to consider the following UNDISPUTED quantitative truth reported by various studies in the past few years and most of these, Singaporeans know for sure is the truth and nothing but the truth:

1. Singaporeans work the most number of hours per week in the world.

2. Most Singaporeans will never own a car because COEs are limited.

3. The Average home of a Singapore has fallen from 1660 sq feet to about 1000 sq feet in the past decades.

4. Fertility rate in Singapore has fallen to below Japan – among the lowest in the world.

5. Less than half the Singaporeans can meet the minimum sum for CPF retirement accounts. Meaning many will never retire.

6. 17% of Singaporeans do not have medical insurance – the highest in the developed world give and take a few % compared with USA.

7. Singapore has the fastest growing foreigner population per capita in the world. Within a decade, the majority of people in Singapore will be foreign born.

8. Singapore has the highest paid political leaders in the world….

9. Singapore has the highest income gap of all developed countries.

10. More than one person kills himself/herself every day.

11. Singaporeans have the highest savings rate in the world due to CPF but many still can’t retire.

12. The Singapore parliament has the fewest opposition in terms of % of seats in the world among countries that claim to be democratic…of course we are also democratic.

13. Singapore bans chewing gum but legalise casinos. Casinos are legalised in only 2 of the 50 American states.

14. Singapore hangs the most people per capita in the world. Even more than China….do believe this feller called Shadrake.

15. Singapore cars are the most expensive in the world.

16. Singaporeans have the lowest purchasing power among all developed countries according the UBS…even Malaysians in KL have higher purchasing power.

17. Singapore govt has the highest sovereign wealth fund per capita. ..and among the top few in absolute terms.

18. Singapore spends more on defence than Malaysia and Indonesia combined – so I guess we don’t need too much diplomacy and or diplomats, can afford to badmouth them according to wikileaks. Now that they know, we better spend a $100M extra this year on defence.

19. Singapore has the No.1 civil service in the world according to Minister Lim Swee Say. I want to add we also have No.1 civil service in terms of pay for the top echelon. Some can afford French cooking lessons.

20. Singapore has only one news paper company called SPH that produces hoards of quality papers such as Straits Times, Sin Min and other reading delights. We had 5 newspaper companies a few decades ago, I guess this business is in decline even as the population increases.

21. Singaporeans serve NS for 2-2.5 years, this is the longest in the world after Israel. We do it because we can afford the time. Many Singaporean workers will work their whole life without retirement anyway so what is the difference putting aside 2 years.

22. Singapore has the world’s oldest and wisest politician. His name is Lee Kuan Yew. As long as he is around, the good life for Singaporeans will continue. He will make sure of that.

23. Lee Kuan Yew’s son is Lee Hsien Loong who coincidentally became PM due to his own merit. His New Year Message this year asks Singaporeans to be more RESILIENT.

24. Singapore has the most expensive public housing in the world….but according to Minister Mah, it is still affordable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dumping the fallacies LKY created

By Solo Bear, 9 Feb 2011

Firstly, let me qualify that LKY did many good things for Singapore. He led a team of capable leaders to bring where Singapore is today. Any other man would have….well, done the same.

It is just that LKY has taken far, far more credit than he deserves. He is no god, nor deity, but just an ordinary man, who outwitted his adversaries. He was at the right place at the right time, and he capitalised those opportunities with shrewdness like a fox.

In other words, a lesser shrewd man would still have brought Singapore to where we are today, but taken much less credit for it.

Here are some of LKY’s propagated fallacies that need to be ditched.

Fallacy #1 – LKY was charismatic

Ha ha. Those of you who are old enough to remember Lim Chin Siong, will know what I am talking about. I myself was born after his era, but I managed to dig up some enlightening facts about this fiery man.

There was a documentary aired by Discovery Channel, on the history of Singapore. It was a series of documentaries actually, and the feud between Lim Chin Siong and Lee Kuan Yew was discussed.

In the 1950s, it was Lim Chin Siong who commanded the respect of the masses. LKY was well… just a spectator. What Lim could do, Lee could not. When Lim wanted the masses to demonstrate against the Brits, they did just that. With fiery speeches, he moved the masses. LKY was a Nobody, spelled with a capital “N”.

What tilted the favour for LKY was the merger. It was planned that the only way to get rid of Lim was for Singapore to merge with Malaysia, putting pressure on the Tunku to lock Lim up.

Lee played his cards well. Lee pretended to work for Lim’s release (the people’s leader) after the merger. But by then, the position of PM of (autonomous) Singapore, under Malaysia, was already filled – by LKY, of course.

So it is really by wit, using the merger as an alibi rather than charisma, that Lee was made the PM of Singapore.

In another parallel event, we were also told that LKY was made PM of Singapore by a single vote by the Party Chairman, Toh Chin Chye. Of course Lee now tries to deny that event happened – because he wants all the glory to himself (see: Old Man wants all the glory to himself).

It can be seen that it was due to his wit and shrewdness that he became PM. It hardly had anything to do with charisma, where he could move the masses on the ground, as what PAPpy would like us to believe.

Fallacy #2 – LKY led Singapore to prosperity even when we don’t have natural resources

That’s the perfect fairy-tale, isn’t it? It is not a lie that Singapore has no natural resources. It is that it is not the whole truth either.

Singaporeans are bombarded since schools that the great LKY brought Singapore to where it is today, even though we lack all the natural resources.

What we are not told is that all the infrastructure that was needed to run and govern the country, was already in place for LKY when he became PM.

When we broke off from the merger, we already had all the infrastructure. We had well-developed roads, hospitals, fire department service, the police, airport, sea ports, schools, judicial courts, the various statutes and laws, even our own currency, and most important of all, the various ministries and govt agencies needed to govern a country – including parliament itself.

Singapore was already a thriving city (thanks to the Brits) in its own right, and LKY simply took over what was already an established city with trade pacts and commercial deals in place, and all the other necessary systems in good working order.

It is not like he and his team brought Singapore from zero to hero. Yet, LKY, being the narcissist he is, makes it look like he was the Great Man who against all odds, pulled this tiny nation that has no natural resources and means, to where we are today.

Besides being overly narcissistic, he is also insulting all the other parties (including the citizens) who have contributed one way or another, to make Singapore a success.

Fallacy #3 – LKY managed to keep Singaporeans united in spite of race tensions -

This is LKY’s favourite. He likes to play the race card. He did it when Singapore was part of Malaysia, and he continued to do so decades after we broke off from the Federation.

Firstly, there were only two “race riots” where it involved the Chinese and Malays. Secondly, the Chinese were involved in more riots than the Malays. Thirdly, there were more riots in which the govt was the target, than there were riots where particular races were the target (see: History of Riots in Singapore – LKY’s racist version has to be stopped).

So why the emphasis that riots in Singapore has always been about race? Isn’t this just a fallacy perpetuated by LKY, so that you would believe that he was able to handle a highly explosive situation, hence, elevating his status as a “great leader”?

Fallacy #4 – “We were kicked out”

Really? In LKY’s eulogy (when Dr Goh Keng Swee passed away), he unwittingly let the cat out of the bag that it was the Singapore side who planned that we leave Malaysia – hence, putting to rest the lie that we were “kicked out” once and for all (see: Did LKY Lie We Were Kicked Out of Malaysia?).

Besides unwittingly admitting he lied we were kicked out, the above shows that Singapore leaders were well prepared to go alone. So all this talk that we were “left in the lurch suddenly to fend for ourselves” is just humbug.

Fallacy #5 – The Great (Malay) Bogeyman from the North and South is out to get us! -

I leave this to the last because this fallacy is one that has been played the longest. This myth has been played since the 1960s till today. That’s a good long half a century! (Hey, Old Man, move with the times!)

LKY and his PAPpy leaders have always said that our neighbours are out to attack us. They cite the tension during the Confrontation Period. But that issue was one Malay country (Indonesia) against another Malay country (Malaysia).

Indonesia was not too happy that Malaysia merged and assimilated Sabah and Sarawak. They saw it as Malaysia’s expansionist plan, right at the doorstep of Indonesia’s Kalimantan border. Singapore was targeted only because we were also part of Malaysia then.

However, LKY, the racist who always plays the race card, turned that Malay-Malay dispute into “a sea of Malays out to get us” scenario. With a magician’s sleight hand, he deceives Singaporeans into believing that the Bogeyman out there is trying to eat us.

When the Confrontation Period was over, LKY would of course need to whip up more bogeymen. So in came the argument that the North will threaten to cut off their water supply to us.

Hello, old man, who are you trying to fool? Isn’t it easier for Malaysia (and Indonesia) to just control their air and sea space to choke us? Every time a vessel or plane leaves or lands in Singapore, it somehow has to cross Indonesian or Malaysian air/sea space. All they have to do is to put up a high tax, or put up some security checks (in the guise of controlling terror) and all the best sea and air ports we have will be nothing but nice exhibits to look at.

With a high tax, we have to work hard to earn bucks, while their cash registers keep ringing endlessly. With stringent security checks, they not only slow down our operations, but also have an excuse to tax us for what they can say is needed to cover their security checks cost.

Cutting off water is an international crime which Malaysia would never do. But controlling air and sea space is legal. Yet, this Old Man tries to bluff Singaporeans about the water stuff. Hardy har har.

LKY has long known to be a racist. He played the race card in the 1960s and he is still playing it today, 50 years later.

Conclusion -

LKY is a shrewd politician. That, no one disputes. But when you say that he is a charismatic leader, one who could move the masses, that is hardly the truth. I am sure those from the Lim Chin Siong era will remember LKY as a wimp who stood by the sidelines, watching Chin Siong antagonizing the Brit govt with demonstrations after demonstrations, and riot after riot.

As for LKY’s never ending race card play, that’s about the only game he knows. He knows of no other way to play politics.

LKY is trying to deify himself before he dies. The hard truth about his book, The Hard Truth, is that in between the hard truths, there are hard lies embedded within.

Let’s stop believing his lies before he dies.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Identical peas from divergent pods: Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamed

By Terence Netto, Malaysiakini
3 February 2011


Strange to tell, there is a curious congruence between the latest outpourings on race and related issues of former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and his Singaporean nemesis Lee Kuan Yew.

The two octogenarians, visceral adversaries in their younger days and loathing each other still in their dotage, have had an impact on the histories of their countries that will be debated long after they have passed on.

But before they each “go into that good night”, it appears that they are fated – to borrow from lines made famous by the poet Dylan Thomas –to “rage, rage against the dying” of the political order they have each sought to perpetuate.

Destined adversaries


The other day, the Malaysian controversialist virtually told the Chinese and Indians of the country to accept Malay cultural and political hegemony as a pre-condition of theirs' and the nation's tranquillity.

Barely 30 pages into Lee Kuan Yew's just-released third installment of his memoirs (entitled 'Hard Truths'), you have Singapore's iconic leader telling his interlocutors that though Malaysia's founding premier Tunku Abdul Rahman was “a nice man” with “Chinese friends”, “he (Tunku) and the Malays had to be on top. That's his (Tunku's) vision of social balance.”

Malaysians old enough to remember parliamentary debates of the mid-1960s will recall, from the way the member from Kota Star Selatan and the one from Tanjong Pagar clashed in the Dewan Rakyat when Singapore was briefly part of Malaysia (1963-65), that Mahathir and Lee were destined to be adversaries who would impact their societies, for better or for worse.

azlanIn politics, few things have a higher potency for upheaval than a rivalry that is fed by a conflict of personality and vision.

Examples of this phenomenon are Ferdinand Marcos's rivalry with Benigno Aquino in the Philippines of the late 1970s, Mohamed Ali Jinnah's with Jawaharlal Nehru in pre-independence India; and further afield, Winston Churchill's rivalry with Aneurin Bevan in the Britain of World War Two's immediate aftermath, and Charles de Gaulle's with Francois Mitterrand in the France of the 1960s.

In each case, the antagonists were men of destiny whose political trajectories crossed, with added frisson for the clash of ideology and personality they embodied. Personal antipathy only served to accentuate the one's distaste for the other's methods and philosophy.

Curious convergence


NONEYet, for all their differences, there is a curious convergence in Mahathir's and Lee's lack of belief that economic progress and democratic competition can soften social cleavages stemming from racial differences.

To both, race is primeval, an identity not malleable by the emollient influence of economic prosperity, educational advancement, and democratic choice.

Race is like the Freudian 'id', waiting to break out in lurid ways at the merest dent in the tight fit that, in Mahathir's vision, is forged by minority races' compliance with the dominant one's formula for social amity which prescribes appropriate thought and behaviour for the former.

In Lee's vision, race and its potential for turbulence can only be kept in check by a ruling coterie, constantly refreshed in personnel, whose superior quality of governance and unceasing vigilance would ensure that the demons of communalism do not well up from the deep.

With such illiberal views, it's no surprise that both Mahathir and Lee were leaders of authoritarian bent.

Sure, there is a big difference in their impact on their societies.

NONELee has produced a prosperous, if tightly controlled, country, a cynosure of sorts for plural societies wanting to go up the economic ladder.

By contrast, Mahathir has built up Malaysia in infrastructure and emasculated its institutions.

Vastly different though their impacts have been on their countries, both Lee and Mahathir are similarly busy in life's twilight trying to perpetuate and sustain the polities they created.

Through often admirable applications of will and effort, each in their careers strove to shape societies hungry for advancement, securing for their citizens an environment congenial for the satisfaction of human needs.

However, one thing these two pivotal leaders cannot seem to free their selves from: bondage to constricting racial orthodoxies.

At democracy's dawn, its better exponents the world over sought to inspire their peoples with the prospect of a new order of nobility, one not based on the accident of birth – as was the case in feudal societies or in race-based ones that still persist in our times - but on the cultivated excellence of mind and heart, an aristocracy of the spirit to which all are eligible.

The vistas that prospect opened for individual achievement and fulfilment, by their very nature, suggest that race, like biology, can never be destiny.

Leaders who gainsay this wisdom of democracy are horribly obsolete, their visions certain to be repudiated by posterity.